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Iraq’s recaptured territory is being neglected

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IN THE evening Adil Jumaili and his daughter stand beside the Tigris river in Mosul and stare at the wreckage on the opposite bank. Two twisted cars lie where their home once stood. It was destroyed, along with 8,000 other buildings, when Iraqi forces recaptured the city from the jihadists of Islamic State (IS) in July. The hospital at Mosul’s edge, once amongst Iraq’s finest, has been flattened. So, too, has the government complex, all the schools and the medieval alleyways lined with madrassas and monasteries. Precision bombing by Western aircraft spared much of eastern Mosul, which is recovering fast. But western Mosul proved harder to retake. Block-by-block fighting and so-called “annihilation tactics” (a decision to wipe out IS fighters rather than let them flee) destroyed much of the

Raila Odinga takes a gamble by threatening to boycott Kenya’s election

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Odinga’s poker face IN THE rickety wooden markets in Nairobi, where traders sell old books, second-hand clothes and kitchenware, walking away is a buyer’s last negotiating ploy. If he is lucky, he will be chased down the street and offered a better price. Raila Odinga, Kenya’s softly-spoken opposition leader, seems to be hoping a similar strategy may rescue his electoral chances. On October 10th Mr Odinga withdrew from a re-run of the presidential election scheduled for October 26th, arguing that if it went ahead then it would not be free or fair. Courts had already annulled the presidential part of a wider set of elections held on August 8th, after finding problems with the way it was run. But no reforms have been made to the electoral process since then, he argued. It had already bee

Scrapping the deal with Iran could embolden its hardliners

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FOR three years American forces have quietly worked in tandem with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to roll back Islamic State in Iraq. It was as unlikely an alliance as any imaginable. A decade ago IRGC operatives orchestrated attacks on American soldiers in Iraq. Crowds still gather in Iran to chant “Death to America!” Yet as American planes struck from the sky, Iran managed the advance on the ground. All this may be about to change. As The Economist went to press, President Donald Trump was threatening to list the IRGC as a terrorist organisation and to “decertify” the nuclear deal that America and five other global powers signed with Iran in 2015. The agreement lifted some economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for limitations on its nuclear programme and close scrutiny of it

The Palestinians try to reconcile

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Mr Hamdallah (right) tries to shake loose some concessions IT MUST have felt like déjà vu for Rami Hamdallah, the Palestinian prime minister, as he crossed the heavily-fortified border into Gaza on October 2nd. It was his first visit in two-and-a-half years. There were speeches, rallies and lofty promises to end the schism that has paralysed Palestinian politics for more than a decade. It was like a replay of a trip he made in 2014 to inaugurate a new unity government— which fell apart within weeks. The Palestinian territories split in 2007, a year after Hamas, the militant Islamist group, won a majority in parliament. It seized control of Gaza after months of bloody fighting with its nationalist rival, Fatah. Since then Hamas has run the coastal strip as a separate fief, with its own c

Ethiopia’s ethnic federalism is being tested

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FOR centuries the city of Harar, on the eastern fringes of the Ethiopian highlands, was a sanctuary, its people protected by a great wall that surrounded the entire city. But in the late 19th century it was finally annexed by the Ethiopian empire. Harar regained a bit of independence in 1995, when the area around it became the smallest of Ethiopia’s nine ethnically based, semi-autonomous regions. Today it is relatively peaceful and prosperous—and, since last month, a sanctuary once more. In recent weeks thousands of Ethiopians have poured into areas around Harar, fleeing violence in neighbouring towns (see map). Nearly 70,000 people have sought shelter just east of the city. Several thousand more are huddling in a makeshift camp in the west. Most are Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic gro

Jalal Talabani’s mediating skills will be much missed

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FUNERALS can bring estranged parties together. And if anyone’s could heal the fissure between leaders in Baghdad and those in Iraq’s Kurdish enclave, that of Jalal Talabani should be the one. Mr Talabani died on October 3rd in Germany, aged 83. For 60 years “Mam”, or uncle, as Arabs and Kurds alike called him, made a career out of bridging differences. After Saddam Hussein fell in 2003, he became Iraq’s first non-Arab president. A Sunni preacher’s son, he kept excellent relations with Shia politicians, particularly in Iran. He kissed both Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and America’s secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. For years he battled his Kurdish rival, Masoud Barzani, pitting his humble origins and leftist leanings against the Barzanis’ tribal heft. (In 1996 Mr Barzani ev

The birthplaces of African leaders receive an awful lot of aid

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IN 2010 Yang Jiechi, then China’s foreign minister, visited Yoni, a village in Sierra Leone. Mr Yang had a job to do: hand over a fancy new school, financed by Chinese aid, to the local authorities. Sierra Leone certainly needed more schools, but some wondered why the Chinese chose the middle of the bush for the project. It just so happens that Yoni is the home village of Ernest Bai Koroma, Sierra Leone’s president. Yoni’s residents, note Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, two economists, live in new houses that would pass for “palaces” by the standards of rural Africa. Scholars have long had a hunch that Chinese aid could be more easily manipulated than the Western sort, which often comes with strings attached. A Chinese white paper in 2014 stated that the government would not impose any

Syria’s destruction revives a dream of rebuilding Lebanon’s railway

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TRAVELLERS to Lebanon have long bemoaned the state of the country’s roads. Writing in the 1850s, an Irish banker, James Farley, called the route from Beirut to Damascus a “wretched mule path”. The perilous journey over rough mountain passes took four days, as long as you dodged bandits and avoided the winter snow. The mules have gone but the sorry state of the country’s roads persists. Years of political chaos, low investment and more recently the influx of 1.5m Syrian refugees, which has sapped resources, exacerbated the problem. Could a revival of railways save the day? The fate of Lebanon’s rail network tracks the rise and fall of the country’s fortunes. Built by an enterprising French count when Beirut was still ruled by the Ottoman Turks, the first line opened in 1895, cutting the